You may have heard that Blackwater security contractors are just now being sentenced in 2015 for a massacre that occurred in Iraq in 2007.
If you're wondering why it took so long to reach this point, the explanation appears to be all too familiar.
Internal emails show that FBI agents and federal prosecutors were obstructed by political appointees in the Justice Department under President Bush.
“We are getting some serious resistance from our office to charging the defendants with mandatory minimum time,” Kenneth Kohl, a federal prosecutor, told the lead F.B.I. agent on the case, John Patarini, as the Justice Department prepared to ask a grand jury to vote on an indictment in December 2008.
Mr. Patarini was incensed. “I would rather not present for a vote now and wait until the new administration takes office than to get an indictment that is an insult to the individual victims, the Iraqi people as a whole, and the American people who expect their Justice Department to act better than this,” he replied.
Andrew McCabe, an F.B.I. supervisor, took the grievances to his boss, John Perren, saying the Justice Department was “delaying and reducing” the indictment. “This is the latest in what has become a troubling habit by D.O.J.,” he wrote. He encouraged top F.B.I. officials to press their case.
The Bush Injustice Department reportedly objected to weapons charges that would carry a minimum 30-year prison sentence. The department also objected to second-degree murder charges for the contractors.
Charges were eventually filed against each of them, but the delays came at a cost.
After the indictment, the case faced problems and accusations of prosecutorial misconduct and was nearly lost. Then prosecutors missed a filing deadline and let the statute of limitations expire against Mr. Slatten. So he alone was charged with and convicted of murder, which has no statute of limitations. The others were charged with several counts of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and one count each of using a machine gun in a crime of violence.
Even now it's amazing to me how our entire law enforcement philosophy and regime can shift from one administration to the next.
It would be an understatement to say that I was disillusioned as someone who came of age and became an adult under the Bush administration which pushed the Patriot Act, began designating "persons of interest," and politicized U.S. attorneys and the Justice Department. One of my most vivid memories of that era is watching former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales repeatedly say that he "can't recall."
I had little to no faith in federal law enforcement prior to Attorney General Eric Holder's tenure and I can only hope that the next administration follows his lead.
I suppose you could say the same about virtually every sector of government. It's why elections matter.